S Line (ice hockey)

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Left-to-right: Smith, Stewart, Siebert

The S Line was an early National Hockey League forward line that played for the now-defunct Montreal Maroons. It was a highly potent line back in its glory years in the "Crazy Twenties", just when the NHL was beginning and developing.

The S Line's sobriquet was a pun on its components' surnames — manning left wing for the Maroons then was Babe Siebert — at centre was Nels Stewart — and on right wing was Hooley Smith.

Glory Days[edit]

Stewart once confessed that Siebert and Smith "did most of the digging [for the puck] work. They knew I was out there waiting, and if they freed the puck, I'd do the rest."[1]

All the same, the trio was a perfect match for each other. Smith kicked off in 1922 with the brand-new Maroons and three years later, Siebert and Stewart were signed. At the time Smith was struggling — but when his new linemates caught him, he sped right up. Siebert got a good start off to his career.

But their centreman, Stewart, overshadowed them. Although only Bert Corbeau's 121 penalty minutes beat "Old Poison" for the NHL lead in that category — by two — the new line was a TNT combo. Stewart lived up to his nickname in helping the Maroons win the Stanley Cup — he scored the winning goal in each of the Maroons' victories over the Victoria Cougars. He led the league with 34 goals — a truly outstanding feat — and 42 scoring points. Many believe that had the Conn Smythe Trophy existed in 1926, Stewart would have won the award for Most Valuable Playoff Performer as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy, now, specifically, for the NHL's regular season MVP — but none of the "S Line's" members lived to see it first awarded in 1965.

Breakup[edit]

1930 was to turn out sour. While that year Stewart scored his personal highs in goals and points with 39 and 55, respectively, and earned his second Hart Trophy, his wingers faltered. The Crazy Twenties were over, as was the S Line's glory age. While "Old Poison" still consistently scored and played aggressively, it did not easily help the Maroons back to Lord Stanley's Mug, and Smith and Siebert were not getting on the scoreboard as often now, in the "Hungry Thirties" that the Great Depression caused. It was particularly bad for some teams, and the Maroons were one of them.

The old saying "You have to be cruel to be kind" proved true as for 1930–31, Smith and Siebert went across Montreal to the Maroons' largely French rivals, the defending Cup Champions, the Canadiens. The next year, Stewart went to the Boston Bruins. The Maroons' second and final Cup came against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1935.

Deaths[edit]

Siebert died first of the S Line — he drowned in 1939 shortly after being hired as Habs coach at 35. The Maroons had folded the previous year.

In 1957, at 54, Stewart was found dead — presumably of a heart attack.

In 1963, Smith was 61 when he died of cancer.

References[edit]

  1. ^ McDonell, Chris. Hockey's Greatest Stars. Page 40.